March 31, 2006 [LINK]

Senators flinch on immigration

Fearful of inciting riots across the country, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee moved to soften language in the Senate version of the immigration reform legislation. I am not encouraged by what Senators Specter and McCain have had to say on the matter. The committee action makes it much less likely that a workable compromise can be reached with the House, which passed a tough bill, including stiff fines for those who hire illegal workers in December. That is quite proper, but I think the House went too far in criminalizing social action support activities, however. For many people, that is a religious duty, which is fine. Hopefully we can maintain a distinction between individual and collective responsibility for the plight of immigrants. When I heard Sen. Kennedy on one of the morning talk shows last Sunday, he actually seemed to make sense on some aspects of the issue. That may be a sign of "A New Consensus on Immigration," as Albion's Seedlings suggests.

Today's Washington Post had a mostly unfavorable story on Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has been leading the charge on immigration reform, along with Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner. I have heard Tancredo on C-SPAN a number of times, and he just doesn't strike me as the angry rabble-rouser that the mainstream media portrays him to be.

Rep. Virgil Goode expressed indignation at protesters who waved the Mexican flag, eliciting sharp criticism for "extremist" language from likely Democrat challengers Al Weed and Bern Ewert. See Richmond Times Dispatch. One of the last of the rural conservative "blue dog" Democrats, Goode switched to the Republican side in 1999 or so. He is a staunch opponent of NAFTA and wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, a sadly isolationistic stance.

In Cancun, Mexico, President Bush called for "controlled" migration, desperately trying to please Mexico's outgoing President Fox. Well, it would be nice if the "World's Only Superpower" could regain control of its southern border, without resorting to such extreme measures as a Berlin Wall or military patrols. It mostly depends on Mexico's attitude and inclination to reform its economy. See BBC.

UPDATE: According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the Senate bill is "one of the most irresponsible pieces of immigration legislation ever brought before the United States Congress."

Religion and politics

Andrew Sullivan reminds us that one reason our Founding Fathers put limits on the power of government, and on the democratic majority, was fear that religious passions might get out of hand if they were not suitably constrained. Yes, the Founders were "elitists," out of touch with the "common people." Good! Sullivan's piece also hints at one of the little-known historical ironies of American politics: In the early years of the Republic, Massachusetts was a hotbed of puritanical religious zealotry and Virginia was the home of reasoned, secular moderation. I would almost be tempted to call this a "role reversal," except for the fact that the Massachusetts of today, though secular, is hardly moderate.